BEIJING, China - For five decades from Steve McQueen to 'The Fast and the Furious' Ford's Mustang has cruised through middle-class American but the brand is hoping its snarling sports car will find a new generation of fans as it turns 50.And they'll be in China which, in 2014, is celebrating The Year of the Horse.The Mustang was launch in 1964 on top of the Empire State Building and quickly became a byword for cool among America's youth, which loved the slick, highly customisable "pony car" that stood in driveways next parents' bulky sedans.Ford received 22 000 orders on its first day of sale in the US and exceeded 418 000 in a year, four times more than expected. Since then, more than 9.2-million have been sold.NEW ERAWhen the latest Mustang was driven on stage by CEO Alan Mulally at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show on Sunday (APril 20 2014) its equine emblem - the galloping free spirit of the American West - struck a chord with The Year of the Horse.Ford has already proved to be one of the biggest winners in the recent Chinese clamour for urban 4x4s, with soaring sales of its China-produced Kuga. Now it wants to break into the equally crowded sports-car segment.Shanghai-based analyst Namrita Chow believes name and logo recognition will make or break Mustang in China. "The Chinese market is very brand-conscious," she stressed. "At the moment Mustang has no presence in China - Ford is coming from zero... this is a strategy to raise brand-awareness, to prove it has different models (to offer) to those of its competitors."CULT FOLLOWINGFord's Asia-Pacific product development VP Trevor Worthington told AFP he believed the growling Mustang would resonate with young Chinese and their radically different outlook to the nation's older generation. "Chinese consumers are looking for iconic experiences," he explalned. "The Mustang is one of those cars among all cars that make you feel freer."The car already has a cult following in China. Richard Guo, mid-twenties founder of the Mustang Club of China whose members drive imported versions, represents the customers Ford hopes to capture.Guo said: "My friends and I, we are self-employed, without anything tying us down. The feeling of driving a Mustang is crazy freedom, of expecting the unexpected, which suits us."Ford saw its sales in China soar by 49% in 2013 with nearly 936 000 vehicles sold yet trails General Motors (3.16-million) and Volkswagen (3.27-million) despite opening three plants in China since 2012. Another four are being built.'GONNA GO GLOBAL'In the next year it will add 15 new models to its showrooms in China - part of an assertive growth strategy far from the Mustang's familiar North American territory.Ford's group VP and president for the Asia-Pacific region, David Schoch said: "It's an iconic brand and we decided we're gonna take Mustang global."Who knows? In a society with the family still at its heart, but with increasing individualism at least at the level of consumer choices, the Mustang may yet prove to be a galloping success.